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James Ugalde’s practice includes representing lenders, banks, secured creditors, landlords, equipment lenders/lessors, and other financial institutions in sophisticated commercial finance transactions, real estate matters, and bankruptcy and creditors’ rights enforcement proceedings.

As outside counsel, James acts as a strategic business partner and key advisor to senior executives and in-house counsel on general commercial finance, bankruptcy, and litigation matters. He is a leader with a solid track record of success in growing and developing business-focused and risk-management legal teams.  James has solid contractual, litigation, and risk management experience as well as strong communication, training, teambuilding, partnering, and management skills.

James is also experienced in negotiating and documenting transactional documents for distressed credit and tenant situations including pre-negotiation agreements, forbearance agreements, and modifications to various loan and lease documentation, with a heightened sensitivity to protecting his clients’ rights and remedies.

James understands the value in obtaining a clear understanding of his clients’ short and long-term goals and therefore makes every effort to learn how his clients operate internally to determine how to add value given his clients’ organizational culture. James enjoys being involved from the beginning and at each stage of his representations to alert his clients to possible risks and opportunities, thereby working to align the particular deal terms with his clients’ objectives. His clients appreciate his ability to look ahead and propose the most reasonable strategies to support his clients’ post-transaction expectations.


Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 2018, Executive Leadership Program Certification, Kellogg School of Management
J.D., cum laude, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, 2003
B.S., magna cum laude, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, 1999, International/Global Business (Finance/Human Resources)


Named among The Best Lawyers in America® for Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights/Insolvency and Reorganization Law (2022-2024), Litigation – Bankruptcy (2024), Real Estate Law (2024) by Best Lawyers

Selected for inclusion in Southwest Super Lawyers® Rising Stars: Bankruptcy & Creditor/Debtor Rights (2012-2016)


Arizona Commercial Mortgage Lenders Association, current Member

Risk Management Association, current Member

Turnaround Management Association, current Member

Disabled American Veterans Legal Clinic, Founding Steering Committee Member (2014 – 2018)

Chandler Compadres, Member (2009 – 2018)

Board of Adjustment (Zoning), City of Chandler, Chairman (2008 – 2013)

Habitat For Humanity – Public Relations & Marketing Committee, Member (2007 – 2010)

State Bar Licenses


James has represented his clients in the following types of matters:

  • Representation of national lending institutions in commercial financing transactions, including negotiating and documenting complex construction financing arrangements involving commercial real estate and ground lease transactions.
  • Perfection and enforcement of secured rights under loan and security documents and the Uniform Commercial Code, including asset-based financing and leasing.
  • Out-of-court workouts, including forbearance agreements and amendments to address defaults under lease or loan documents including deed in lieu transactions.
  • Collection of funds owed under leases, loans, and judgments, and foreclosure of security interests, including deeds of trust, under state law.
  • Advising commercial landlords regarding their contractual and statutory rights, including enforcing such rights in bankruptcy, eviction actions and other self-help remedies, including lockouts and landlord’s lien sales.
  • State court enforcement matters, including pre-judgment, litigation, and post-judgment proceedings.
  • Bankruptcy matters under Chapters 7, 11 (including subchapter V), and 13, ranging from stay relief litigation and contested plan confirmation issues to non-discharge claims and related adversary actions.

James has helped his clients achieve their goals in the following representative engagements: *

  • Represented national lender regarding loan enforcement after default seeking foreclosure and appointment of receiver over collateral including multi-family residences in multiple jurisdictions.
  • Represented lender with enforcement of lien and security interests in real property and FF&E with multiple franchise operations of national restaurant/hotel chain.
  • Represented equipment leasing & finance company with enforcement and recovery of car washing equipment at multiple locations of national gas station operation.
  • Represented equipment leasing company’s interest in bankruptcy regarding assumption/rejection issues and lease recharacterization.
  • Represented lender that foreclosed on commercial property with forcible detainer action to remove a national retail boat dealership, involving bankruptcy court litigation and requiring coordination with numerous sheriff’s deputies in takeover of commercial property.
  • Represented landlord with trial to evict operating fitness gym from multiple locations.
  • Represented licensee holder of F.C.C. licenses in contested bankruptcy proceedings to protect licensee holder’s interests and the purchase of assets through Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code.
  • Litigated stay relief and plan confirmation issues in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases involving operating businesses and commercial real estate projects.
  • Litigated trial representing landlord in dispute involving tenant’s purported renewal option of commercial lease.
  • Represented landlord group in litigation against tenant for lease default and fraud claims regarding misappropriation of tenant improvement funds.
  • Represented commercial landlord interests in bankruptcy of national retail restaurant operator involving lease assumption and rejection issues under the Bankruptcy Code.
  • Significant experience with commercial eviction cases and litigation to enforce commercial guaranty agreements in connection with enforcement of landlord rights.

James has also represented his lender clients through the appellate courts in the following matters:

  • Successfully argued a certified question of law before the Arizona Supreme Court, resulting in invalidation of unfavorable law for secured creditors regarding attachment of judgment liens to homestead property. See In re McLauchlan (Pacific Western Bank), 62 Arizona Cases Digest 39, 502 P.3d 975 (2022).
  • Successfully defended appeal for bank client after winning summary judgment against personal guarantor. See BMO Harris Bank, N.A. vs. James Galusha, 1 CA-CV 19-0549 (App. 2020), Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One.
  • Successfully litigated trial verdict (after obtaining stay relief in contested bankruptcy proceedings) through Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding valuation of collateral in enforcement of deficiency claim against guarantors after foreclosure of commercial real estate. See Fannie Mae v. LaRuffa, 702 F. App’x 505 (9th Cir. 2017).

* This experience was completed prior to joining Clark Hill